“Pearl Jam is much more than a popular band to the many who look to their emotion-driven music for comfort, solidarity, and a sense of connectedness,” noted Guitar Player’s Mike Mettler. A remarkable 1990s success story, the band is also part of the fierce Seattle rock scene that stunned the music industry by turning soulful, cathartic themes, punk attitude, and metal guitar into multi-platinum sales. Though at first thrown for a loop by their success, Pearl Jam-fronted by charismatic lead vocalist Eddie Vedder—followed their multi-platinum debut album with a strong and popular sophomore release, making their huge appeal even harder to write off as a mere trend.
Much of the credit for Pearl Jam’s sudden and solid connection with its devoted, youthful audience must go to Vedder, whose “vocalized anguish seems to strike the raw and hurting nerve of a young generation raised on divorce and dysfunction,” according to a People magazine writer. The singer’s own troubled past informs his lyrics—rife with images of violence and loneliness—and his singing balances rage, despair,
Members include Dave Abbruzzese (born c. 1968 . in Texas), drums; Jeff Ament (born c. 1963 in Montana), bass; Stone Gossard (born c. 1966), guitar; Dave Krusen, drums (left band 1991); Mike Mc-Cready (born c. 1965), guitar; Eddie Vedder (born Edward Louis Seversen III in Evanston, IL, c. 1965; married Beth Liebling [a writer], 1994), vocals.
Recording and performing artists, 1991—. Band formed in Seattle, WA; signed with Epic and released debut album Ten, 1991; contributed to Bob Dylan Tribute concert and album, 1992 ; appeared on Victoria Williams tribute album Sweet Relief, 1993; collaborated with group Cypress Hill on song for soundtrack to film Judgment Night, 1993.
Awards: Platinum records for Ten, 1992, and Vs., 1993; favorite new artist, pop/rock and favorite new artist heavy metal/hard rock, 1993 American Music Awards; best video of the year, best group video and best metal/hard rock video for “Jeremy” (director: Mark Pellington), MTV Video Music Awards, 1993; Rolling Stone artists of the year, 1994.
Addresses: Record company —Epic Associated, Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Fan Club—PearlJam Ten Club, P.O. Box 4570, Seattle, WA 98104.
yearning, and hope in a way that has struck a chord with listeners since the release of Pearl Jam’s Epic debut Ten in 1991. “I mean, my upbringing was like a hurricane, and music was the tree I held onto,” Vedder explained to Melody Maker.”That’s how important it was, and is. It’s everything.” The vocalist had more difficulty than his bandmates dealing with the demands of sudden fame and seemed taken aback by the realization of his own impact: “The fact that so many people relate to these songs is kind of depressing,” he told Details.A Rolling Stone review called Vedder both “a heroic figure” and “a big force without bulls—; he bellows doubt.”
Pearl Jam was started by guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament. The two had played together in the Seattle outfit Green River (along with two founders of the influential band Mudhoney) and helped to develop the “grunge” rock sound that would later be celebrated and scrutinized by the very industry pundits who originally ignored the bands developing the trend. It was with the glam-metal group Mother Love Bone, however, that Gossard and Ament fully expected to hit the big time; fronted by flamboyant singer Andy Wood, the group was signed and had recorded an album when Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990.
Though devastated by Wood’s death, Ament and Gossard vowed to struggle on. Seeing no point in trying to replace the inimitable Wood, they decided to put together a new project. Gossard—lacking the “ego” to move from rhythm to lead guitar, as Devon Jackson of Details expressed it—enlisted Mike McCready, a guitarist who had played in such unheralded Seattle bands as Shadow and Love Chile. While long an idolizer of rock trailblazer Jimi Hendrix, McCready’s playing had recently been energized by the work of blues guitar greats like Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Describing Waters’s performance in the concert documentary The Last Waltz to Guitar Player’s Mettler, McCready declared, “I couldn’t believe the raw, emotional power he generated; it was just what I was looking for as a player. The blues is all about intense, cathartic feelings and finding that special place where you can channel all your stress into something else.” Gossard’s compositions, which Guitar Player noted were often predicated on unusual guitar tunings, provided a perfect springboard for what Mettler called McCready’s “raw, Hendrix-inspired lead work.”
Brought together, the two guitar players “just clicked,” McCready declared. All that remained, McCready recalled to Mettler, was “to find Eddie and a drummer.” It’s understandable that Vedder seemed in retrospect the only person to front Pearl Jam (which was originally named Mookie Blaylock, after a hard-working pro basketball player admired by the hoop-obsessed musicians). Drummer Jack Irons, formerly of alternative-rock sensations the Red Hot Chili Peppers, declined the drummer spot but recommended that Gossard and company send a tape of instrumentals to Vedder, an Evanston, Illinois native who was living in San Diego. Vedder loved the tape, wrote lyrics to three of the tunes and sang them over the music, made his own photocopied art for it, titled the whole package “Mamasan,” and sent it back to Seattle. Ament listened to it and promptly phoned Gossard, according to a Rolling Stone profile. “Stone,” he reportedly insisted, “you better get over here.”
Vedder told his new bandmates that he wanted to rehearse as soon as he arrived in Seattle. With Dave Krusen on drums, the group spent a week writing and rehearsing and then played their first show. They took the name Pearl Jam, allegedly after a mysterious preserve made by Vedder’s great-grandmother. Their debut album—which they produced along with Rick Parashar, who also worked with the band Blind Melon—was called Ten after Mookie Blaylock’s jersey number. “We were green when we made Ten,” Mc-Cready revealed to Guitar Player.”Aside from Jeff and Stone, nobody else had really done a record before.”
A writer for Details noted that the recording contained “everything you’d expect of a Seattle band: roaring guitars, rough edges, no frills or flash. And plenty of musical hooks.” Music Express declared, “There’s absolutely nothing new about Pearl Jam,” although it judged Vedder’s voice and the group’s hard-hitting sound “irresistible.” Critical admiration, however, was not required to make the band a sensation. They appeared as the backing musicians for the character played by Matt Dillon in Cameron Crowe’s motion picture Singles (filmed before Ten but released after the album had begun rocketing up the charts). Gossa-rd and McCready also joined members of fellow Seattle rockers Soundgarden for a one-off album—called Temple of the Dog —dedicated to Wood. Vedder put in an appearance on the song “Hunger Strike.” That album, too, became a hit after Pearl Jam began to chart.
The initial single from Ten, the furious rocker “Alive,” became a major hit, thanks in part to a video that showed a raucous live performance. It was the mainstream music audience’s first exposure to Vedder, whose anguished yet resilient presence became an overnight sensation. The singer later revealed to Rolling Stone that “Alive”—despite having been adopted as asurvival anthem by critics and fans alike—was a far darker and more despairing tale than anyone seemed to realize. (He later described it as the story of a mother’s sexual attraction to her son, based on his resemblance to his dead father.)
The song “Evenflow” also fared well, and the band’s appearance on MTV Unplugged broadened its audience considerably. But it was the first “concept video” for a Pearl Jam song—something the group had initially vowed not to do—that took them over the top. “Jeremy,” a tragic story of a misunderstood boy who kills himself before his classmates, became the group’s biggest hit thanks in large part to a dramatic video by Mark Pellington that won three trophies at the MTV Video Awards. The group resisted Epic’s efforts to make a video for the emotional “Black,” believing it would compromise the song’s personal meaning. Even so, Ten became a multi-platinum sensation, and Pearl Jam was suddenly one of the biggest bands in the music world. Among other honors, they took home trophies at the 1993 American Music Awards for favorite new artist in both the pop/rock and heavy metal/hard rock categories.
The band toured the world, making converts everywhere they went. Melody Maker reported that at a concert in Oslo, Norway, the fans “kn[ew] all the words. It takes something less than seconds for Pearl Jam, in a live context, to astonish.” Ten continued to rise up the charts, though it didn’t getto the top position. Nonetheless, Pearl Jam had arrived.
Vedder was a bona fide rock hero in the grand tradition, a development reinforced by his singing in front of the reunited 1960s band The Doors—in place of the band’s late and legendary vocalist Jim Morrison—on the occasion of their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his participation in the 1992 anniversary tribute to visionary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. The band would rub shoulders with other rock idols: they opened for Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards at a New Year’s Eve concert and joined rock survivor Neil Young onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards for a raucous version of Young’s “Rockin’inthe Free World.” They joined Young for a tour, and shared a European bill with Irish superstars U2. The group also participated in a number of benefit albums, including the Sweet Relief tribute to singer/songwriter Victoria Williams.
By the time the group finished recording its second album, the sense of anticipation in the rock world was palpable. Vedder, having emerged as a rock hero, served as tabloid fodder for months; speculation abounded that he had become an alcoholic, and one briefly circulated rumor had him dead of a heroin overdose. (In 1994, bandmate Abbruzzese commented wryly in Rolling Stone, “Eddie died three times last year.”) At one point Vedder phoned underground musician and writer Henry Rollins—a fiercely independent and self-reliant figure—for advice. “My take on the whole thing was, here’s an honest guy in a very weird situation,” Rollins recalled to Rolling Stone.”I said, ‘Eddie, usually people as big as you are are real schmucks. Because they pulled every string to make that happen. But you haven’t. You put the shit out there, and people went “Thank you, that’s what I’ve been waiting to hear.”’” Rollins said he advised the singer to “drink your carrot juice, breathe deep, have fun, and don’t do what you don’t want to.” Despite his struggle with the limelight, however, Vedder had thrown himself into the band’s new batch of songs.
Between the release of Ten and the completion of the follow-up, of course, there had been a few changes in the cultural landscape. Most notably, “grunge” was a term bandied about by magazine publishers, talk-show pundits, and fashion designers, and the term “the next Seattle” had been hurled at every burgeoning local music scene. Vedder himself had become an unwilling spokesperson for youthful angst, not to mention the subject of considerable theorizing on the pages of teen magazine Sassy.
Pearl Jam’s second album, originally titled Five Against One but changed to Vs.after its initial pressing, hit retail outlets in the fall of 1993. It sold 950,000 copies in its first week, reported Variety, and went quintuple-platinum in three months. By that time, Ten was officially a sextuple-platinum recording. Produced by the band with alternative-rock scion Brendan O’Brien and recorded at a remote, posh studio in northern California, the record displayed an expanded musical palette, most evident in Abbruzzese’s diverse rhythms and a greater range of guitar tones. “It’s tempting,” wrote James Rotondi of Guitar Player, “to suggest the term grunge-funk” Cameron Crowe ventured in Rolling Stone that the album “is the band’s turf-statement, a personal declaration of the importance of music over idolatry.” The songs cover the spectrum from the scorching “Leash” and “W.M.A.,” among other songs raging against oppression and violence to softer, more introspective compositions like “Daughter” and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.”
Vs.suggested to many critics that the band had matured considerably. “The songs are less anthemic but every bit as gripping,” Rotondi mused, “ripe with meaning that gradually unfolds upon deeper listening.” Rolling Stone gave the album four and one-half stars and heaped special praise on Vedder’s “smart singing” and “the muscular roil of Dave Abbruzzese’s percussion,” concluding that “there’s always enough going on beneath the surface to remind us that magic in this band’s music builds from the bottom up.”
Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times, more afan of Vedder’s style and power than the band’s music, dubbed the sophomore effort “a palpably stronger album” than Pearl Jam’s debut, adding that by its close the band “have reaffirmed that rock album can be a grueling, blood-and-guts experience that leaves a listener bruised, muddy—and ultimately elevated.” USA Today, meanwhile, called Vs.”crunching a melodic, raw and graceful, mystical and visceral.”
Yet despite all of their success, Pearl Jam has not forgotten about their fans. A writer for Billboard noted that the band has gladly accepted the “challenge of balancing their enormous success with delivering what they think loyal fans deserve: access and reasonably priced music.” Some of the ways Pearl Jam has tried to achieve this goal include notifying fan club members of upcoming shows and giving them first dibs on tickets, refusing to sell limited-view tickets, and keeping ticket prices (before service charges) at $18. The band has taken particular exception to the concept of service charges; in May of 1994 they filed a brief with the U.S. Department of Justice charging Ticketmaster, a national ticket distributer, with forming a monopoly.
Pearl Jam is staunchly opposed to the service charge—ranging from three to six dollars—that Ticketmaster tacks onto the price of concert tickets that are bought by phone. (The band would accept a service charge of $1.80.) The argument intensified when Pearl Jam claimed that Ticketmaster had used its influence to keep promoters from booking the band’s 1994 summer tour. Ticketmaster denies the allegations, but the Justice Department is proceeding with an investigation of “possible anti-competitive practice in the ticket distribution industry,” according to the Detroit News.
In their Rolling Stone interview with Crowe—an old friend from Seattle—the band reflected on the ramifications of large-scale success. Gossard addressed claims that fame deprives musicians of their edge: “To me, the problem with getting too big is not, innately, you get too big and all of a sudden you stop playing good music. The problem is, when you get too big, you stop doing the things you used to do. Just being big doesn’t mean you can’t go in your basement and write a good song.”
Abbruzzese, meanwhile, good-humoredly noted, “when I was younger and I heard about a band selling a million records, I thought the band would get together and jump up and down for at least a minute, and just go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it.’ But it doesn’t happen that way [in this band]. Me, I flip out. I jump up and down by myself.” Ultimately, it’s the balance between painful introspection and jumping up and down that summarizes Pearl Jam’s artistic philosophy. As Ament expressed it to Spin, “Eddie’s lyrics take you to an open window, and just when you’ve got one foot out on the ledge, it’s our job to bring you back in to celebrate.”
Ten (includes “Alive,” “Evenflow,” “Jeremy” and “Black”), 1991.
Alive (EP), 1991.
Vs.(includes “Leash,” “W.M.A.,” “Daughter” and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”), 1993.
With other artists
Mother Love Bone, Mother Love Bone (includes Gossard and Ament), Stardog/Mercury, 1992.
Temple of the Dog (includes Gossard, Ament and McCready on all tracks; Vedder appears on “Hunger Strike”), A&M, 1991.
Bob Dylan Thirtieth-Anniversary Tribute (Vedder and McCready appear on “Masters of War”), Columbia, 1993.
Various, Sweet Relief: A Tribute to Victoria Williams (band appears on “Crazy Mary”), Thirsty Ear/Chaos, 1993.
Brad (featuring Stone Gossard), Shame, Epic, 1993.
Various, Judgment Night soundtrack (bands appears with Cypress Hill on “Real Thing”), Epic Soundtrax/lmmortal, 1993.
Billboard, September 11, 1993; October 16, 1993; April 23, 1994.
Circus, March 31, 1992.
Details, August 1992.
Detroit News, June 10, 1993.
Entertainment Weekly, January 31, 1992; July 31, 1992; September 25, 1992; January 8, 1993; April 9, 1993.
FMQB, June 12, 1992.
Guitar Player, February 1992; December 1992; December 1993; January 1994.
Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1993; May 1, 1994.
Melody Maker, February 22, 1992.
Music Express, January 1993.
Musician, July 1992; April 1993.
New Yorker, April 20, 1992.
People, January 25,1993; December 6,1993; December 27, 1993; June 27, 1994.
Pollstar, September 23, 1991.
Pulse!, August 1993.
Reflex, June 1992.
Rolling Stone, July 9, 1992; February 4, 1993; February 18, 1993; March 18, 1993; April 1, 1993; June 10, 1993; July 8, 1993; September 2, 1993; October 28, 1993; November 11, 1993; December 9, 1993; December 23, 1993; January 27, 1994; May 5, 1994.
San Diego Union Tribune, October 14, 1993.
Seattle Times, December 8, 1993.
Spin, September 1991; June, 1992; November 1992; December 1992; January 1993; April 1993; September 1993; June 1994.
Time, October 25, 1993.
USA Today, October 15, 1993.
Variety, November 4, 1993.
Additional information was provided by Epic promotional materials, 1991 and 1993.
Pearl Jam, the pearl of the early-1990s grunge explosion in Seattle, was one of the most successful musical acts of the decade. The band was formed in Seattle by guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament; they approached drummer Jack Irons from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but he declined to join. However, he recommended a vocalist named Eddie Ved-der. Gossard and Ament sent Vedder a demo tape; Vedder wrote lyrics, added his vocals, and sent it back to them. They encouraged him to come to Seattle, where he joined them, lead guitarist Mike McCready, and drummer Dave Abbruzzese. Their debut album, Ten, was released the same year—it sold a whopping 6.9 million records.
Led by the moody, reclusive Vedder, Pearl Jam swam straight against the current of their success. “I don’t want to be a star,” Vedder was quoted by Brisbane’s Courier-Mail as saying. “It’s not worth it to have my picture taken and my face everywhere. All that you need is the music.” Fueled by anti-rock-star fervor, Pearl Jam refused to produce a videos or single for its next record, 1993’s Vs. Even without, the album broke a first week sales record, moving 950, 378 copies and eventually selling nearly six million. The band also insisted that its records be released on vinyl as well as CD. Such stances were seen by some observers as typical rock star posturing. Those opinions were belied, however, by the benefit work Pearl Jam did regularly for the pro-abortion groups Rock For Choice and Voters For Choice as well as for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Seattle Arts Center and the Rhett Syndrome Foundation.
The most serious test of Pearl Jam’s principles was set in motion in 1994 when it went head-to-head against Ticketmaster. The group felt—passionately—that the country’s largest distributor of tickets for sporting and entertainment events was abusing its leading position in the market by charging inflated service fees that frequently boosted the price of tickets by $20. Pearl Jam conceived a “low cost” tour that would be affordable to its teenaged fans. It instructed Ticketmaster that tickets should cost no more than $18.50, with a maximum service charge of $1.80. Ticketmaster refused, claiming it had to charge at least $2 to cover its costs. Pearl Jam responded by filing a memorandum with the U.S. Department of Justice that accused Ticketmaster of monopolistic behavior.
Without Ticketmaster, it proved nearly impossible to put a concert tour together—at least in the short run. The 1994 tour was cancelled, losing the band an estimated $9 million. Nonetheless, defying the ticket mega-company touched a nerve. A host of musical superstars, Soul Asylum, Garth Brooks, Neil Young, U2 and Bad Religion, lined up to support Pearl Jam’s
For the Record…
Members include Dave Abbruzzese (born c. 1968; left group 1997), drums; Jeff Ament (born on March 10, 1963 in Big Sandy, MT), bass; Matt Cameron (born on November 28, c. 1964 in San Diego, CA), drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals; Stone Gossard (born July 20, 1965 in Seattle, WA), keyboards, vocals, drums, lyricist, guitar; Jack Irons (left band 1998), drums; Dave Krusen (left band 1991), drums; Mike McCready (born April 5, 1966 in Pensacola, FL), slide guitar, piano, lyricist; Eddie Ved-der (born Edward Louis Seversen III, on December 23, 1964, in Evanston, IL; married Beth Liebling, 1994), lead vocals, lyricist, rhythm guitar.
Band formed in Seattle, WA; signed with Epic Records, released debut album Ten, 1991; tour collapsed during feud with Ticketmaster, Gossard and Ament testifed before Congressional hearing on Ticketmaster’s monopoly practices, 1994; vinyl Vitalogy hit Billboard charts, 1994; recorded and toured with Neil Young, 1995; pre-release tracks from Yield posted on Internet, 1998; drummer Jack Irons left the band, 1998; “Last Kiss” recorded for fan club, 1998; double-CD sets of 70 live concerts released, tenth anniversary celebrated at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, 2000.
Awards: Platinum records: Ten, 1992; Vs., 1993; American Music Awards: favorite new artist, pop/rock and favorite new artist heavy metal/hard rock, 1993; MTV Video Music Awards: best video of the year, best group video, and best metal/hard rock video, “Jeremy” (director: Mark Pellington); Rolling Stone Artists of the Year, 1994; Grammy Award, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Best Hard Rock Performance for “Spin The Black Circle” from Vitalogy, 1996.
Addresses: Record company —Epic Associated, Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; 2100 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Fan club— Pearl Jam Ten Club, P.O. Box 4570, Seattle, WA 98104, website: http://www.tenclub.net/, e-mail:[email protected] Website —Pearl Jam Official Website: http://www.sonymusic.net/artists/PearlJam/index2.html.
position. In June 1994, Gossard and Ament traveled to Washington to testify in Congressional hearings on whether contractual agreements between Ticketmaster and most major stadiums and concert promoters have violated federal antitrust law.
Ament later expressed disappointment over how the hearings went. “I really thought we were going go have some impact,” he told USA Today. “But somehow it didn’t feel like they took [the issue] seriously. They seemed like they were more interested in getting autographs for their children.” Ultimately nothing came of the Justice Department investigation either. In July of 1995, Attorney General Janet Reno ended the probe, saying there was insufficient evidence. Pearl Jam’s experience with the government in the Ticket-master affair was partially responsible for their support of Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacy in 2000. Although the band was sometimes forced to work with specific Ticketmaster venues when it wanted to tour later in 1990s, Pearl Jam went out of its way to avoid using the company whenever possible, coming to an uneasy truce only at the very end of the decade.
Pearl Jam released Vitalogy in 1994 and like the two earlier records it shot quickly to the top of the Billboard charts. The band released a vinyl version two weeks before the CD came out which made Vitalogy the first vinyl record in years to hit the charts. In its first six months in stores, 4.8 million copies were sold. It was a minor miracle that the record even saw light of day. Their unbelievable success combined with the Ticket-master fight had raised tensions in the band to almost unmanageable levels. “Nobody was communicating well at that point,” Ament told USA Today admitting that the group had nearly disbanded.
However, by February of 1995 (only two months after Vitalogy’s release), the band went into the studio to make a record with Neil Young. They had performed together at Young’s induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner in New York in January and quickly turned it into a project. Young cancelled his scheduled appearances in the Lollapalooza tour, and within three days of working together in Seattle, they had finished writing five songs. Young’s Mirror Ball was released in the summer of 1995 followed by a joint tour. Young saw no problem playing with musicians old enough to be his children. “In many ways, I feel like Pearl Jam is older than me,” he told Time. “There’s an ageless thing to the way they play.”
Pearl Jam continued to push the limits of rock with their own albums. No Code was released in the summer of 1996. It was recorded in a number of cities—Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Seattle. Its songs managed to be “gently reflective without losing their underlying tension,” in the words of Newsday’s Letta Tayler. The record drew a variety of responses from reviewers, from gushing praise to verdicts of unlistenability from others.
Between No Code and 1998’s Yield, drummer David Abbruzzese left the band and was replaced by Ved-der’s old friend, Irons. Irons was credited by some members with lowering still-latent tensions in Pearl Jam and helping the band work better together. Along with other band members, Irons also contributed a song to Yield. It was the first Pearl Jam album on which Vedder sang lyrics he had not written. Shortly after Yields release, however, Irons left and Pearl Jam signed on yet another drummer, Matt Cameron, formerly of Soundgarden.
In early 1999, Pearl Jam recorded a version of “Last Kiss,” a ballad done by J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers in 1964, which it sent as a single to members of its fan club. By March, “Last Kiss” was getting regular airplay on Los Angeles’s KROQ-FM. It quickly spread to other stations in the country, which did not please Pearl Jam, which had refused to release a single since its first album. It found a compromise when it agreed to the single’s inclusion on No Boundaries, an Epic Records compilation to benefit Kosovo refugees.
Yield showed the power of the Internet for bootleggers when five excerpts from the album were posted on a fan website. In December of 1997, a Syracuse, New York, radio station played a DAT of the record it had somehow obtained without authorization. A fan taped the broadcast and put parts on his fan site. “It came off the radio, so I put it up,” said the site’s owner. “The whole idea of the site is to have rare stuff.”
Throughout its career, Pearl Jam has been famous for changing its set list dramatically from show to show and, like the Grateful Dead always did, it always encouraged its fans to tape its shows. It even permitted live FM radio broadcasts of many of its concerts. An unwelcome result of these decisions was a thriving market in expensive Pearl Jam bootlegs. In 2000 the band took an unusual and extreme step against bootlegging. It announced it would release every concert it played in its upcoming European tour. Approximately 70 were originally scheduled, but the tour was abruptly cut short and only 25 sets were released in the fall of 2000. Originally they were meant to be sold only via the Pearl Jam web site, at the bargain price of $10.98 for each two-CD set. However, Epic Records eventually made them available in stores as well, generally at a much higher price. Forty-five shows from a subsequent tour of the United States were later released.
The band’s summer of 2000 European tour was cut short because of a tragic incident that struck at a performance at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark in June. Security provided by the promoters was lax and poorly trained in responding to emergency situations. They were completely unprepared for the flood of fans that occurred. Nine people were crushed to death in the mob scene. An investigation of the incident absolved Pearl Jam of any blame for the deaths, but the group returned to America stunned and shaken. Once back, the musicians and crew attended counseling to help them deal with the blow. Reportedly, Vedder was depressed for weeks afterward. They decided to handle safety planning for all future shows themselves.
In October of 2000, Pearl Jam, the grunge rebels of the early 1990s, celebrated their tenth anniversary in an unlikely locale, the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas. The show drew fans from all over the country. Despite the party in the glitter and gambling center, Pearl Jam has remained loyal to most of the principles it espoused throughout the decade: It continued to avoid most interviews, it did not release videos and only rarely singles, and it performed on behalf of organizations involved in worthwhile activist efforts. After a few months in stores, Pearl Jam’s last album, Binaural, had sold only one million units, down significantly from the millions of sales Ten had generated. But Pearl Jam accepted the “decline” philosophically. Such success couldn’t last forever, and anyway, the other grunge bands that had emerged from the Seattle scene were long since history. Pearl Jam were the survivors. What lay ahead in their next ten years? “The danger for a band that goes into its second decade is the temptation to start recycling yourself, but we’ve always been conscious of that,” McCready told Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times. “We have insisted on moving forward and trying new things. That’s what makes me think there is a lot of life still in the band.”
Ten, Epic, 1991.
Vs., Epic, 1993.
Vitalogy, Epic, 1994.
(With Neil Young) Mirror Ball, Reprise, 1995.
No Code, Epic, 1996.
Yield, Epic, 1998.
Live on Two Legs, Epic, 1998.
(Contributor) “Last Kiss,” No Boundaries, Epic, 1999.
Binaural, Epic, 2000.
Live (series of live double CDs), Epic, 2000.
Contemporary Musicians, volume 12, Gale Research, 1994.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Australia), August 29, 1996.
Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1997; March 28, 1999; October 19, 2000.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 3, 1998.
Newsday, February 8, 1995; April 9, 1995; September 30, 1996.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 1, 1994.
Time, July 3, 1995.
USA Today, June 8, 1995; June 18, 1995; February 17, 1998.
—Gerald E. Brennan
Formed: 1990, Seattle, Washington
Members: Jeff Ament, bass (born Big Sandy, Montana, 10 May 1963); Matt Cameron, drums (born San Diego, California, 28 November 1962); Stone Gossard, guitar (born Seattle, Washington, 20 July 1966); Mike McCready, guitar (born Seattle, Washington, 5 April 1965); Eddie Vedder, vocals (born Chicago, Illinois, 23 December 1964). Former members: Dave Abbruzzese, drums (born 17 May 1968); Jack Irons, drums; Dave Krusen, drums.
Best-selling album since 1990: Ten (1991)
Hit songs since 1990: "Alive," "Jeremy," "Better Man"
Pearl Jam is one of the most respected mainstream rock bands to have come out of the 1990s. Because the band was rooted in Seattle at the time grunge rock began to gel, Pearl Jam became known, after Nirvana, as the genre's most popular proponent. As the 1990s wore on the band evolved into a serious arena-rock act. Although their album sales dwindled over the years, nevertheless they retained a dedicated following and the esteem of their older rock peers.
Roots and Early Growth
Pearl Jam's roots date to the mid-1980s, when the bassist Jeff Ament and the guitarist Stone Gossard played in the Seattle band Green River. When Green River split in 1987, Ament and Gossard enlisted the singer Andrew Wood and formed Mother Love Bone. The group released their debut, Apple, on a major label in 1990. Wood died of a heroin overdose soon thereafter, and Ament and Gossard formed another band. This time they brought in the guitarist Mike McCready and the drummer Dave Krusen, and together they recorded a demo. Through a friend it wound up in the hands of the singer Eddie Vedder, who recorded his own lyrics and vocals over the tape and sent it from his home in San Diego back to Seattle. Vedder was quickly hired. In early 1991 the band (then named Mookie Blaylock, after a professional basketball player) began to tour and started recording a debut album Ten, which appeared later that year. During this time the group changed its name to Pearl Jam, reportedly in honor of a favorite recipe by Vedder's great-grandmother Pearl. (Vedder later said the band simply liked the word pearl. )
Spot Light: Pearl Jam Takes on Ticketmaster
A turning point in Pearl Jam's career came when it launched a legal battle against the ticketing giant Ticketmaster, which Time magazine ended up calling "rock 'n' roll's holy war." The band filed a memorandum with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in May 1994. After buying Ticketron in 1991, Ticketmaster had become the largest distributor of tickets to major venues in cities nationwide. Pearl Jam charged that Ticketmaster was a monopoly and that the exorbitant service fees it tacked on to each ticket unnecessarily elevated concert prices. In defiance they canceled their 1994 summer tour to promote their album, Vs. Instead, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard testified at hearings before the U.S. Congress in June. When touring commenced the following year, the band relied on smaller ticketing agencies, which forced them to play alternative venues not contracted with Ticket-master. The tour was limited to only twelve cities, and skipped some major markets. The venues it did play were too small to accommodate fan demand. By then the Justice Department had decided that Ticketmaster did not pose a threat to the concert industry and cited several small competitors that were on the rise to give consumers a choice. Time has borne out Pearl Jam's claims, however. As of 2003 Ticketmaster remained the dominant ticketing agency for all major concerts. The three- to six-dollar service fees that Pearl Jam had initially complained about had risen to eight- to eleven-dollars per ticket.
Pearl Jam ended up relying on Ticketmaster for subsequent tours, but the public battle marked the beginning of the band's self-regulated retreat from the promotional spotlight. The band never appeared to promote a new album or tour on MTV and, except for occasional appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, avoided talk shows and award ceremonies.
Ten became Pearl Jam's biggest-selling album, and it defined what came to be labeled "grunge." The music's monstrous guitar riffs mirrored 1970s arena rock, and the alienation expressed in Vedder's lyrics was rooted in the postpunk of the 1980s. The antirock attitude and Everyman fashion (flannel and jeans, usually) helped usher in "alternative rock," a newly coined niche in commercial radio that distanced itself from the formulaic and glossy pop metal of the previous decade. Unlike the raw, dense sound of their Seattle peers Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Pearl Jam's debut featured songs with big, memorable choruses, perfect for radio, like "Alive" and "Jeremy." Their accessibility and earnestness made them one of the most popular band of the grunge era.
Even though Ten was a huge hit and immediately put the band in the public eye, it was still the sound of a band just learning how to make music together. The songwriting credits were strictly divided between Vedder's lyrics and Gossard's music. The two follow-up albums—Vs. (1993) and Vitalogy (1994)—were stronger and more eclectic, the results of a band whose members had grown comfortable with one another. Vs. is a grunge hallmark for its monster riffs and heartfelt soul. It is stocked with psychologically ripe anthems like "Go" and "Glorified G." The ballad "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" became a staple of their live shows.
Vitalogy was the band's first album to follow the suicide death of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. Battling manic depression and ill prepared to become spokesperson for a generation, Cobain retreated into heroin addiction. While his songs drowned in self-pity, Pearl Jam's were driven by romantic fury, which Cobain routinely mocked. A much darker album than the previous two, Vitalogy mocks the commodification of celebrity by the media, as in "Not for You." "If you hate something / Don't you do it too," Vedder bellows. "Nothingman" is a plaintive ballad about a lost soul, whereas "Immortal" hints at the pedestal Cobain refused to sit on. The album also features experiments with sound collage ("Hey Foxymophandle-mama, That's Me") and a paranoid rant accompanied by accordion ("Bugs"). The album's lasting power is thunderous rockers like "Corduroy," a bracing band mission statement, and "Whipping," which rails against the violence created by the prolife movement. By this time Vedder had become more than just another grunge howler. He was a steely singer who could convey complex emotions and subtlety. Vitalogy is Pearl Jam's epic statement, full of brooding beauty and blazing conviction.
As Pearl Jam continued to release albums, they started connecting with the baby-boom generation. Vedder was invited to sing at a concert honoring Bob Dylan, and he filled in for the late Jim Morrison when the Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. He toured with Pete Townshend of the Who and Neil Finn of Crowded House and appeared on their respective live albums. A few months after Vedder inducted Neil Young into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Pearl Jam and Young headed into a Seattle studio and recorded Mirror Ball, a collection of new Young songs backed by the band. Even as late as 2002, Pearl Jam opened special club dates for the Who.
By the late 1990s Pearl Jam had created a prolific body of work. Grunge had vanished from the spotlight. The best-selling groups of that era either had broken up or had members fall victim to drug-related deaths. Pearl Jam itself was experiencing its share of diminishing sales—the band's 2000 album Binaural sold 715,000 copies whereas Ten had peaked with 8.9 million; despite this decline, the group showed no signs of falling apart. In fact, critics contended that the band had become more tightly knit. Unlike most bands they had undergone hardly any personnel changes except for a continually revolving drummer position, which rotated from Krusen to Matt Chamberlain to Dave Abbruzzese to Jack Irons to Matt Cameron.
No longer faced with the pressure of selling huge amounts of records, the band steadily released albums that were not experimental but were consistently strong collaborative efforts. Starting with Vitalogy in 1994 and continuing with Riot Act in 2002, Pearl Jam cemented its sound, which combined Vedder's abstract lyrics and dark vocal texture with Gossard's and McCready's compelling guitar arrangements, hooks, and monster grooves.
The band endured because they often took breathers for solo projects. In 1991 the entire band plus Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell recorded under the name Temple of the Dog for a tribute album memorializing Wood. Ament formed the band Three Fish and released two albums. McCready formed the Rockfords and released a single album; he also recorded with Layne Staley, the lead singer of Alice in Chains, under the name Mad Season. Vedder played drums on tour for Hovercraft, his wife's band, and also performed solo during political rallies for Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate in 2000. Gossard released his debut solo album, Bayleaf, in 2001.
Pearl Jam remained a top concert draw, routinely selling out tours in the United States and overseas. Bolstered by a loyal fan base, the band released seventy-two complete shows from its 2000 world tour. Each double- and triple-disc set documented a specific show and was sold at discount price. Fourteen of the shows ended up on the Billboard 200 charts. According to Billboard, the entire project sold 1.29 million copies. The band continued the practice for its 2003 world tour.
One major setback to their 2000 tour was the death of nine fans fatally crushed during a festival set in Roskilde, Denmark, on June 30, 2000. Pearl Jam was cleared of blame and later recorded the song "Love Boat Captain" to reach out to the families of the victims. The band vowed never to play festivals or to allow open floor seating at any of their shows.
Pearl Jam helped to define the grunge rock movement in the early 1990s and evolved into a tightly knit, successful arena rock group. Remaining together while other bands of their ilk fell apart, Pearl Jam took pains to sustain an audience and to demonstrate how a band with multi-platinum success can still put passion into its music.
Ten (Epic, 1991); Vs. (Epic, 1993); Vitalogy (Epic, 1994); No Code (Epic, 1996); Yield (Epic, 1998); On Two Legs (Epic, 1998); Binaural (Epic, 2000); Riot Act (Epic, 2002).
When grunge music exploded into the mainstream of popular culture in the early 1990s, it was Pearl Jam, along with fellow Seattle band Nirvana, who filled the column inches and the billboard charts. While Nirvana's September 1991 debut Nevermind generated an immediate media frenzy, it was Pearl Jam's more orthodox blues-rock album, Ten, released almost simultaneously, that would eventually overtake it in sales—over ten million copies in the United States alone by the end of 1996. The breakthrough single from the album, "Jeremy," won four MTV awards, and recognition for a video that tried to create a coherent story for lead singer Eddie Vedder's typically elusive and obtuse lyrics. What was clear from the video was the sense of pain and anger that characterized Pearl Jam's music: songs that helped recharge rock 'n' roll, a seemingly exhausted genre that had been slipping in both market share and musical relevance since the late 1980s.
Pearl Jam was formed in 1991 by bass guitarist Jeff Ament and rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard. Together with Mike McCready (guitar), drummer Dave Krusen (later replaced by Dave Abruzzese and then Jack Irons), and Eddie Vedder (vocals), the band began recording under the name Mookie Blaylock, after the New Jersey Nets basketball star. After Blaylock objected, they changed to Pearl Jam (allegedly after a jam containing peyote made by Vedder's great-grandmother, Pearl). Their debut album, Ten, combined a hard, guitar rock sound with anthemic choruses, slow pop melodies, and Vedder's vocal gyrations that told stories of suicide and childhood neglect. If Nirvana's Nevermind was a punk-rock incendiary aimed at classic rock, Pearl Jam's Ten provided a more mainstream-sounding attack on the established order. Both albums were instrumental in positioning grunge, or the "Seattle-sound" (fellow bands Soundgarden and Alice in Chains also hailed from Seattle), as the dominant MTV aesthetic and confirming Alternative music's arrival overground in the early 1990s.
Pearl Jam's more commercial sound prompted an attack from Nirvana's Kurt Cobain in 1993. The singer called the band a "corpo-rate, alternative, cock-rock crossover" and charged Pearl Jam with "jumping on the alternative bandwagon." Their response was to record a much rawer and harder second album, vs., which they refused to support with videos, singles, or a major tour, though the album still managed to sell five million copies and top the billboard charts. In 1994 the band also embarked upon a stand against ticketing agency Ticketmaster, alleging that the company had a monopoly over ticket distribution in U.S. arenas and stadiums. Pearl Jam officially asked the Department of Justice to investigate Ticketmaster on antitrust charges, and band members Ament and Gossard found themselves testifying before a congressional committee.
The Justice Department dropped its investigation of Ticketmaster in July 1995, but the band gained praise in many quarters for a stand against a stadium system that in some ways mirrored their increasing rejection of stadium rock. The band's third album, Vitology (1994), stripped away the grunge sound in favor of a diverse collection of influences, including folk and reggae. One of the standout, Grammy Award winning tracks was "Spin the Black Circle," a homage to vinyl records, and the album was made available on vinyl before its release on other, more polished formats. The move reflected the group's seeming desire to reestablish serious grassroots credibility after tremendous media hype; singer Eddie Vedder had appeared on the front cover of Time magazine in October 1993, despite his refusal to be interviewed for the accompanying article. The album also reflected Vedder's musings in light of Kurt Cobain's suicide, an event that increased the attention given the Pearl Jam vocalist. As Andrew Mueller of the British music weekly Melody Maker commented at the time, "Eddie Vedder is out there alone now."
Vedder and Pearl Jam's response was increasingly to shirk the limelight and to move away from the grunge sound that had helped generate their fame. Their fourth album, No Code (1996) employed Indian drones, psychedelic rock, folk, and punk, only occasionally returning to a high-energy rock sound. Similarly, their 1998 album Yield continued with the combination of Vedder's existential musings and more eclectic range of musical instruments. It included a track showing the influence of Pakistani qawwali star Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, with whom Vedder collaborated for the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. Music critics were less receptive to Pearl Jam's attempts to redefine themselves; yet the demise of the grunge phenomenon and a diminished, if still significant, fan base suited the band. Their stated wish was to sustain a lengthy and credible musical career, in line with those they admired, such as Bob Dylan, Pete Townsend, and in particular Neil Young, with whom they collaborated on the Mirror Ball album.
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Morrell, Brad. Pearl Jam: The Illustrated Biography. New York, Omnibus, 1993.
Neeley, Kim. Five Against One. New York, Penguin, 1998.
Wall, Mick. Pearl Jam. London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1994.
Pearl Jam , along with Nirvana, brought attention to the music of Seattle and launched grunge rock into mainstream popularity. Membership: Eddie Vedder, lead voc. (b. Chicago, Dec. 23, 1964); Mike McCready, lead gtr. (b. Seattle, Wash., April 5,1965); Steve “Stone” Gossard, rhythm gtr. (b. Seattle, Wash., July 20, 1966); Jeff Ament, bs. (b. Big Sandy, Mont., March 10, 1963); Dave Krusen, drm. Dave Krusen was replaced by Dave Abbruzzese in 1992; Abbruzzese was replaced by Jack Irons in 1995.
Fronted by charismatic lead vocalist-songwriter Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam tapped the rage and frustration of youth with a sense of longing and compassion missing from the songs of Nirvana. The band debuted in 1991 with the best- selling Ten, and have since been one of the most popular in all of rock. They have won fans by fighting what they consider to be the monopolistic practices of ticket-seller Ticketmaster, and have been outspoken in their support of lower ticket prices.
Formed in Seattle around 1990, Pearl Jam was initially comprised of Jeff Ament and Steve “Stone” Gossard, of Green River and Mother Love Bone; Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready of the one-shot Temple of the Dog; and Dave Krusen. Temple of the Dog was convened with Ament, Gossard, Vedder, and McCready and Soundgarden’s Chris Connell and Matt Cameron to record a tribute album to Mother Love Bone lead vocalist Andrew Wood, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. Signed to Epic Records, Pearl Jam broke through with their debut album, Ten. Ultimately selling more than five million copies in the United States, the album featured highly melodic but aggressively played songs such as “Even Flow,” the energetic ballads “Jeremy” and “Alive,” and the plaintive “Release.” In 1992 Pearl Jam became one of the most popular attractions on the second Lollapalooza tour.
Replacing drummer Dave Krusen with Dave Abbruzzese, Pearl Jam next recorded the softer Vs. album. Another instant best-seller, the album included the powerful “Leash,” “Rear View Mirror” and “Blood,” as well as the brooding “Dissident,” the acoustic guitar-based “Daughter,” and the introspective “Indifference.” During 1993 Vedder sang three songs with the surviving Doors at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and Pearl Jam appeared on MTV’s Unplugged.The band toured Europe with Neil Young and collaborated with him on “Rockin’ in the Free World” at the MTV Video Awards show.
One of the most populist and politically committed bands in contemporary rock, Pearl Jam sought to keep ticket prices reasonable for their planned summer tour of 1994, but they were thwarted by Ticketmaster, the only nationwide ticket-service agency. In May the band filed a complaint against Ticketmaster with the U.S. Justice Department, and Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard testified at Congressional hearings investigating monopolistic business practices in the ticket-distribution industry in June. In August 1994 Dave Abbruzzese left Pearl Jam after the group had completed recording Vitalogy, released on vinyl two weeks prior to its release on CD and cassette. The fastest-selling album of the year, Vitalogy returned to the ferocity of Ten with songs such as “Spin the Black Circle” (their first-ever single release) and “Last Exit”; it also contained “Not for You,” “Satan’s Bed,” and “Nothingman.” In a remarkably astute move, Pearl Jam bought three hours of satellite time in January 1995 to broadcast the three-hour show Self-Pollution on any radio station that availed itself of the band’s free offer. The group eventually toured the United States in the summer of 1995 with new drummer Jack Irons, playing venues independent of Ticketmaster. However, the tour was beset with problems, including rain in Utah and Eddie Vedder’s incapacitating illness after seven songs in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Neil Young completed the San Francisco show, and only days later Reprise issued Young’s Mirror Ball, on which Pearl Jam served as his backing band-it is perhaps his best effort since his early days with Crazy Horse.
temple of the dog:Temple of the Dog (1991). pearl jam:Ten (1991); Vs. (1993); Vitalogy (1994); No Code (1996); Yield (1998); Live on Two Legs (1998); Binaural (2000). neil young and pearl jam:Mirror Ball (1995).